I highly recommend this remarkable work of imagination, empathy and storytelling to anyone who wants a fast-paced plot and deep, insightful background that teaches us much about China's spiritual life. Meyer convincingly creates multiple worlds--of pre-war China, missionaries, Japanese detention camps, postwar America, and reform-era China--that are rich and imaginative. Built around two strong women, the novel immerses us in Chinese and Christian religious communities, showcasing the author's deep knowledge of China, religion and faith. Holding it all together is a riveting plot--a kidnapping whose effects span decades and continents. ---Ian Johnson, Pulitzer-Prize winning writer covering China for Baltimore's The Sun and The Wall Street Journal, and author of The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao
Jeffrey F. Meyer presents an interesting blend of West meets East, as generations of the traditional familial unit transition from tragedy to fulfillment. A study of family, coming of age and religion/spirituality, A Call to China evokes a sense of exploration fictionally reminiscent of Chang’s Wild Swans.
A Call to China leads the reader into deep reflection about family, destiny and the search for an appreciation of self amid the hypocrisy and incongruity of the times. The real tragic history of 20th-century China and the Cultural Revolution is brought back to life as the Waymans attempt to find their individual sacred place, seeking immortality and wisdom in their own distinct fashion. By providing compelling characters, a driving rhythm and a rich plot, Meyer produces an intriguing tale of humanity struggling to recover its indigenous allegiance to one’s own faith as each sees appropriate. “The color of the cat doesn’t matter, black or white, as long as it can catch the mouse.” --- Lisa Aquilina, J.D., LL.M, Publisher, Author, and Arizona Authors’ Association President
In Jeffrey Meyer’s debut novel, A Call To China, East meets West as two sisters who have grown up in separate cultures find their way back to each other. Bu’er, born to American parents but kidnapped and raised in rural China to be the leader of a secret sect called the FourOne Society, and Olivia, a professor raised in urban America, come to realize that beyond a vast cultural divide, the two sisters are related in more ways than one.
Temples, incense, caves, mountains, the Buddha and the Dao on one side; on the other, missionary compounds, university, divorce, death, Jesus and Socrates. Jeffrey Meyer’s poetic and sharp prose explores both worlds and leaves readers with a tale that is moving and unforgettable, a tale of familial and spiritual love that transcends all cultures. ---Dr. Chris Brawley, author of Nature and the Numinous in Mythopoeic Fantasy Literature
Americans are only starting to learn about the turbulent history of China in the 20th Century. Jeff Meyer’s novel artfully delves into the drama and strife of China’s vast lands. He convincingly narrates a story of quest for connection, both on a grand political scale, and on a personal level of a woman’s brave search for her sister kidnapped decades before. This is a journey far and beyond, but even more so, it is a journey into the heart. ---Christopher Radko, Author and Holiday Designer
Two sisters grow up without meeting and follow different but intersecting paths in 20th-century China and the United States.In this novel, Meyer (Myths in Stone: Religious Dimensions of Washington, D.C., 2001) traces the temporal and spiritual journeys of the two daughters of an American missionary stationed in China before World War II. Victoria, the older one, is kidnapped as a child by a religious sect that sees her as its future leader. Livia, born after Victoria's disappearance, endures an internment camp with her parents during the war, then grows up in midcentury America. The narrative moves back and forth between the two sisters as Victoria, now known as Bu'er, learns traditional healing and survives Mao's ascendancy and the Cultural Revolution in an out-of-the-way village, gradually coming to terms with her role in the religious community. Meanwhile, Livia converts to Roman Catholicism, experiences the 1960s as a college student, pursues a Ph.D., and becomes a scholar of Chinese religion. As relations between China and the United States are restored in the 1970s and '80s, Livia is able to return to her country of birth and promises her dying mother she will find out what happened to Victoria. The plot, sedate and expansive for most of the book, takes a Robert Ludlum-esque turn as Livia faces challenges from suspicious locals and government officials in her search for Victoria, but it returns to a more contemplative pace in the final chapters. Meyer is clearly knowledgeable about Chinese history and culture (an author's note explains his personal connections to the country), and the text is full of rich details that enhance the book's fully realized setting. Memorable secondary characters play key roles in both storylines, each distinctly drawn and thoroughly developed. The occasionally repetitive narrative (for instance, there are multiple conversations about Livia becoming a department chair at a college) could have been more tightly edited. But the tale avoids getting bogged down in philosophical discussions and maintains its momentum as the sisters undergo their separate religious evolutions.An engrossing fictional exploration of family, culture, and what it means to belong in both China and America.